President Biden visits Kentucky as part of $1.6B federal bridge repair program


Jack Weaver

President Joe Biden speaks about infrastructure and a $1.6 billion bridge project on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at a vacant property in Covington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Rayleigh Deaton, Editor-in-Chief

President Joe Biden visited the commonwealth on Wednesday to announce the allotment of more than $1.6 billion in federal funding to upgrade the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio.

The funding will refurbish the existing bridge and build a companion bridge as part of investments from the $40 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Bridge Investment Program. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2023 and is estimated to take six years, according to a press release from the Kentucky Governor’s Office.

The law, signed by Biden in November 2021, will repair 10 “economically significant” bridges around the country, according to a press release from the White House. These bridge projects are defined as having a cost of more than $100 million.

Addressing a crowd on the Northern Kentucky side of the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky, Biden was joined by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, former Senator Rob Portman, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Sherrod Brown.

“This bridge connects Ohio and Kentucky (and) carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River. It’s one of the country’s busiest freight routes; traffic on I-75 alone carries $2 billion … per day between Florida and Canada,” Biden said.

Built in 1963, the Brent Spence Bridge spans the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati and was named for Kentucky’s longest serving congressman. According to the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor website, the bridge was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles per day; while still structurally sound, it now accommodates more than double that number.

Biden said that the program is intended to help bolster American workers, adding that labor unions are helping foster pride and dignity in the labor industries.

“All this is about making an investment in America’s heartland and America’s people, America’s future. It’s about making things in America again,” he said. “It’s never been a good bet to bet against America.”

Biden was introduced by Saria Gwin-Maye, a member of Ironworkers Local 44.

“This brings jobs, this brings money, which is very well-needed right now today in Cincinnati and Kentucky,” she said.

Beshear called the project a “green light and a game changer.”

“This funding is going to allow us to complete this project without tolls,” he said. “Building a companion bridge isn’t just the fulfillment of my administration’s promise; it’s also the beginning of an even brighter future for the families of this region, for the tens of thousands of travelers who pass through this area every day and for the many businesses that rely on this key commercial link.”

Portman spoke to the bipartisan nature of the program, adding that he helped lead infrastructure negotiations in D.C. from the Republican side for years.

“Today is the triumph of common sense and persistence over pessimism and partisanship,” he said. “To me, this is not just about a bridge between Ohio and Kentucky. This is about a more effective bridge for our country … to solve big problems in our country.”

In addition to the Brent Spence Bridge, the Bridge Investment Program will rebuild or repair bridges crossing the Calumet River in Chicago, the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London, Connecticut, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. According to the White House, the program stands as the largest investment dedicated to upgrading bridges across the nation since the Interstate Highway System under former president Dwight D. Eisenhower.